by BRAD ROLLINS
Faced with anticipated cuts in state funding of at least $4.3 million, San Marcos CISD officials are considering cutting 14 positions before next academic year but think they can do it without layoffs.
|Proposed cuts to 2011-2010
San Marcos CISD budget
|Eliminate excess in current budget||$1,000,000|
|Savings from paid off equipment lease||$350,000|
|Staff elementary schools at 22-to-1||$400,000|
|Staff middle schools at 26-to-1||$300,000|
|Reduce consultant costs||$100,000|
|Eliminate three G&T teachers positions||$150,000|
|Eliminate three parent liaison positions||$75,000|
|Eliminate three art teacher positions||$150,000|
|Stop funding Family Learning Center||$165,000|
|Freeze salaries districtwide||$100,000|
|Move administration and clerical to four day summer work week||$200,000|
|Eliminate staff travel reimbursements||$200,000|
|Eliminate three administrative clerk positions||$90,000|
|Eliminate unneeded software contract||$50,000|
|Increase facilities rental rate||$10,000|
|Eliminate one technologist position||$60,000|
|Eliminate one instructional coach position||$60,000|
|(less cost of additional high school positions)||(234,500)|
About 200 people poured into a middle school cafeteria for board of trustee meeting on Monday to hear administrators’ first forecast for what a $20 billion-place state biennium shortfall means for the local school district.
Mike Abild told trustees they should expect a 7.5 percent reduction in state funding, about $4.3 million, and outlined cuts totaling $3.3 million. The rest of the shortfall can be met by drawing on the district’s nearly $25.9 million in reserves. Unless the state withdraws more funding than is currently expected — and no one will know until the budget is hammered out, quite likely in a special session — the district will not need to lay off employees to cut the positions recommended for elimination, Abild said.
“That is something that we view as a last resort,” Abild said.
Under Abild’s plan, the district would restructure its gifted and talented program resulting in the reduction of three teacher positions (for savings of $150,000) as well as eliminate three parent liasion positions ($75,000), three elementary level art teachers ($150,000), three administrative clerks ($90,000), a currently unfilled technologist position ($60,000) and an instruction coach ($60,000).
Abild proposed savings by increasing teacher-to-student ratio targets to 22-to-1 in elementary schools and 26-to-1 in middle schools, except for fifth grade which would remain at 25-to-1. The adjusted staffing levels would save the district $750,000, Abild said.
Other proposed cuts include freezing salaries, putting administrative and clerical staff on a four-day workweek in the summer and reconfiguring implementation of the career academy concept at San Marcos High School such that it cost $234,500 instead of the estimated $493,000.
The proposal does not cover reductions in state funding for the 2012-2013 school year, Abild said, and additional reductions may be necessary if legislators reduce funding further than expected.
A half-dozen or so educators, including teachers’ associations representatives, took the podium and, often to cheers from the audience, suggested that the cuts hit instruction, as opposed to administration, the hardest.
The proposal to dilute teacher-to-student ratios at the elementary level “may sound good at first but it’s not when you take a look at the averages,” said Grace Mueller, a middle school teacher and the local Texas State Teachers Association steward.
Given the chance to weigh in on the proposals, trustees had few comments or questions except for Judy Allen’s observation that “I don’t think we’re in as bad a shape as other districts around us.”
Indeed, Hays CISD officials are expected shortfalls that could rise to the $12 million range and plans to cut 100 jobs, including 31 classroom teacher positions. That translates to raising that district’s preferred student-to-teacher ratio, currently 18-to-1 at its three poorest schools and 20-to-1 at other elementary schools. Hays is considering raising the cap to 20-1 at the low socio-economic schools and 22-1 at the other elementary schools.
San Marcos CISD trustees on Monday also approved a buyout program of sorts for employees whose positions are on the chopping block. To help get accurate staff projections earlier, the district will make a lump sum payment equal to five percent of the employee’s annual salary if he declares his intention to leave the job before March 21.
The San Marcos district is facing its budget quandry without the benefit of a permanent superintendent. Patty Shafer resigned the job effective Dec. 31 but is remaining at the district’s helm in an interim role at the reported fee of $1,549 a day.